Family's warning after Ipswich woman, 96, conned out of £30,000 over decade through scam mail
PUBLISHED: 20:48 18 September 2017 | UPDATED: 20:48 18 September 2017
The granddaughter of a 96-year-old Ipswich woman who has been conned out of tens of thousands of pounds by responding to scam mail is warning other families to stay vigilant and help protect vulnerable relatives from fraud.
Julie Fletcher believes her grandmother, who wants to be referred to as Mrs S, has been put on a database of repeat victims, known as a suckers’ list, which is shared between tricksters so they can target those who have been fooled before.
Over the past decade Mrs S is estimated to have lost around £30,000 by sending away money and giving out her bank details to criminals, mostly to play in lotteries that do not exist but offer prizes of more than $100 million.
Trading Standards stepped in after three cheques from Mrs S, which she believed were buying her tickets for an Australian lottery, were found among sacks of similar correspondence during a raid on a London flat last year, according to Miss Fletcher.
Professional dog walker Miss Fletcher, also from Ipswich, said: “We want to raise awareness so other families can have this conversation with loved ones who may be vulnerable and may get sucked into it.”
Miss Fletcher said at least 1,500 people in Suffolk were thought to be on a suckers’ list.
So embroiled in the lies she was being fed, for years Mrs S refused to believe it when relatives told her she was being scammed. In the end family members resorted to intercepting her mail to shield her from cons.
Miss Fletcher, 45, said her grandmother had once told her to look for a new house as Mrs S was so convinced she was going to a win a fortune.
In some cases fraudsters sent Mrs S flowers and Christmas cards in order to build her trust.
Mother-of-two Mrs S, whose husband died last year, said she was “disgusted” when she learnt the truth.
“In my day you didn’t suspect people because they were honest,” Mrs S said.
She added: “It’s made me mean, and I don’t like being mean. For cancer and things like that I have always given and now I have been told I mustn’t. Anything to do with children I would give and now I have been told I can’t.”
Described as feisty and independent by her granddaughter, Mrs S assured she was not going to let this bring her down: “Some older people it must upset, but it hasn’t upset me. I just take it as it comes.”
This week Suffolk Trading Standards will fit a device on Mrs S’s telephone that tells the caller the line is being monitored, and any suspicious mail will also be taken away for examination.
A spokeswoman for the organisation said it was working closely with banks, carers, social health care professionals and police to identify victims of scams and to provide them with support and advice.
She added: “Mrs S was regularly receiving four or five pieces of scam mail each day, together with numerous phone calls from scam companies.
“Suffolk officers visited Mrs S and her family to provide advice and support. A true-call device will also be fitted to her telephone to prevent further scam telephone calls.
“Since joining the National Trading Standards scams project, we have contacted over 1,600 victims and removed over 500kg of scam products from consumers’ homes.
“Many of the victims have been identified from lists which are known to be exchanged between scammers who use the names and addresses to target people with scam mail and scam telephone calls, looking to extract money from them.”
Anyone who wants advice about scams or fears that they or a family member has fallen victim to one can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.